Feb 18, 2016

Are Employers Required to Pay Employees for Breaks?

Employers cannot dock employees’ pay for brief breaks during the work day according to a recent decision by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Department of Labor brought suit against a local telemarketing company, alleging violations of the Fair Standards Labor Act, or the FLSA. The Department challenged the company’s requirement that employees clock out for brief breaks throughout the day, including to use the restroom.

The FLSA requires employers to pay eligible employees a federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 per hour. The FLSA also provides for overtime pay equal to time and a half whenever an employee works more than 40 hours per week. The Department alleged that because employees were not paid for the breaks, their wages fell below the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25 set forth in the FLSA. Furthermore, the breaks were not accounted for when calculating whether an employee qualified for overtime pay.

The court agreed with the Department and ordered the company to pay millions of dollars in back wages. The FLSA does not require employers to give breaks, and in fact allows them to limit the length or number of breaks allowed. This recent decision, however, suggests that any breaks that are granted must be paid. Although employers may adopt liberal break policies to benefit employees, this decision underscores that even seemingly benign practices may require legal review.

The Labor and Employment practice group at Eastburn and Gray, P.C. is prepared to advise employers and employees about the FLSA, or other employment law issues. For further information please contact the Labor and Employment practice group.

Author: Erin N. Kernan

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